Health experts applaud SC ruling on Norvartis

New Delhi, April 1 (IANS) Health experts welcomed the landmark ruling of the Supreme Court Monday, rejecting Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG’s attempt to patent its cancer drug, saying the dictum would ensure that patients get access to cheaper life-saving drugs.

“This is a landmark judgment. This will have a long-term and wide impact, as the generic version makes it more affordable for the poor. Now the prices of life-saving drugs will be reduced from Rs.1,60,000 per month to just Rs.6,000,” Y.K. Sapru, of the Mumbai-based Cancer Patients Aid Association told IANS over phone.

The apex court Monday rejected the drug maker’s patent application for a major cancer drug, a ruling that allows cheap copies of important medicines to continue being distributed.

The judgment allows firms in India to continue making copycat versions of the Novartis drug Gleevec. The drugmaker argued that the drug “Glivec”, as it is known in India, was a newer version that qualified for a fresh patent.

Sapru, refuting apprehensions that the ruling may be seen as a violation of patent laws, said: “If it was a violation of patent laws, then the Supreme Court wouldn’t have given such a decision. It is in complete compliance with the rule of law.”

Sameer Kaul, senior surgical oncologist at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, said the decision was a step in the right direction.

“I view this development with cautious optimism. While I am aware that we need to address the price issue of life-saving cancer drugs, we should be careful to not violate our own patent laws. The government should have stepped in much earlier to negotiate the prices with the company,” Kaul told IANS.

“The government should encourage the local pharmaceutical industry to spend more on research, so that we can develop own molecules. Also, the patent time-period of 20-30 years is absurd. It should not be more than two or three years,” he said.

Professor of Oncology at AIIMS, P.K. Julka, said: “The ruling is good for poor patients. It will ensure continued access to cheap drugs.”

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